Clean Power Senator Jim Inhofe brandishes a snowball in Congress to "debunk" climate change (screenshot, Tampa Bay Times)

Published on May 7th, 2017 | by Steve Hanley

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Climate Solutions Caucus Brings Republicans & Democrats Together Over Climate Change

May 7th, 2017 by  



The US Congress has a number of caucus groups — loose affiliations of representatives and senators who have similar views on important issues. One of the newest is called the Climate Solutions Caucus, a place where those concerned about climate change can meet to exchange ideas about how the federal government should respond to environmental challenges.

A Noah’s Ark Approach

Senator Jim Inhofe brandishes a snowball in Congress to "debunk" climate change (screenshot, Tampa Bay Times)We might assume that most of those people would be Democrats, but in fact half of the Climate Solutions Caucus members are Republicans. How can that be? “If you want to join as a Democrat, you have to bring along a Republican,” says co-chair Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Florida, as reported by The Guardian. “It’s a Noah’s Ark sort of approach, which is appropriate given the subject matter. We don’t argue about the science. It’s all very respectful.”

The other co-chair is Florida Republican Carlos Curbelo, whose district includes the Florida Keys, an area that will be heavily affected by rising sea levels. “There are a lot of Republicans who understand this is a real challenge, and the caucus is giving them a place where they can explore ideas,” Curbelo says. “It was assumed that Republicans would take a position of denial, but that’s not the case. One of our main goals is to depoliticize environmental policy in the US.”

Spreading Like Wildfire

Curbelo acknowledges that getting other Republicans to join the caucus takes a lot of effort, but he says the idea is “spreading like wildfire,” with many colleagues “now contacting us and wanting to learn more.”

The Climate Solutions Caucus is gathering support from business groups, religious organizations, and younger Republicans demanding the GOP drop its long-held climate science denial. Curbelo actually attributes much of Republicans’ intransigence to Al Gore. His single-handed campaign to alert the world to the dangers of global warming alienated Republicans, who took an opposite stance partly because Gore never reached out to them.

The Al Gore Effect

“Al Gore did all that without a Republican partner, so we got to a state of affairs where Republicans automatically opposed anything to do with the environment,” Curbelo says. “I don’t really blame Al Gore for that but there’s a lesson there. We need a proper, sober discussion on this issue.” He claims, “there are a lot of Republicans who understand this is a real challenge.”

“The vast majority of Republicans in private buy the science — the likes of Inhofe are in the minority,” said Danny Richter, legislative director of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonprofit group that painstakingly helped put together the caucus. Inhofe is the know-nothing knuckle dragger who famously brought a snowball into the US Senate to “prove” that climate change is a hoax. Many of his staff are now working with Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s hand picked hatchet man at the EPA.

“What Republicans needed was safe passage to talk about climate action in public, to not be the the first one to walk down that rickety bridge. There’s now a group who can see their constituents are genuinely concerned about climate change,” Richter says. “They are done with the denial. That should really shift something fundamental in American politics.”

Teddy Roosevelt Republicans

“There are Republicans who can now say ‘I am conservative and care about conservation’ and that is an important signal to the base, that they can go back to the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt and the party that passed the Clean Air Act,” Richter says.

“The problem we are now facing is that the Republican party hasn’t exercised its muscles on this issue in a long time. The more they do that, the easier it will be. There’s a strong economic and jobs narrative there. Republicans won’t want the Silicon Valley for solar, wind and battery storage to be outside the US.”

Richter has words of warning for environmental groups as well. He says they need to move beyond attacking Republicans. Instead they should offer encouragement to those who are willing to speak out on climate change and work to end the destructive cycle that results in name calling and a hardening of positions.

Shortsighted Versus Farsighted

“The American people by and large want to see their leaders address the challenges of the 21st century and ignoring climate change is dangerous,” Curbelo said. “Are we going to be short sighted or are we going to be honest and build a sustainable country for future generations?”

President Scrooge McTrump is perhaps the biggest obstacle to rational debate, thanks to his bombastic style of baiting opponents and his refusal to engage with anyone who disagrees with him. He is not a president — he is a viciously partisan supporter of his so-called base with no interest in forging a governing coalition.

Hope For America?

America’s best hope is to elect people to Congress who will be interested in joining the Climate Solutions Caucus. That implies not electing those who are more interested in sucking up to the fossil fuel industry than promoting the best interests of the country. The Climate Solutions Caucus currently has 38 members. It will need a few hundred more to make a significant difference.





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About the Author

writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.



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